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CURVED AIR

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Curved Air picture
Curved Air biography
CURVED AIR were formed in 1970 by Sonja Kristina (vocals), Darryl Way (violin), Francis Monkman (keyboards), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums). The group decided the name using a shortened version of Terry Riley's composition "A rainbow in curved air". In their first album "Air Conditioning", a prominent role was given to vocals and violin; the album reached number 8 in the British charts. Then, in 1971, they released "Second Album", highly recommended example of CURVED AIR sound (a mix of acoustic folk and progressive rock).

1972 was the year of "Phantasmagoria", with Mike Wedgwood as bass guitarist. After a long tourney the band fell apart and Way formed the WOLF, while CURVED AIR showed a new line-up with Eddy Jobson as violinist, but they will never reach the performance level of the early two albums. In 1973, after "Air Cut" (with a sound hard oriented), Wedgwood joined with CARAVAN and Jobson with ROXY MUSIC. The four members of the original project made the first reunion in 1975 for a tourney (album "Curved Air Live"). Afterwards Kristina and Way carried on with drummer Stewart Copeland, bassist Tony Reeves, guitarist Mick Jacques and released "Midnight Wire". Their last album was "Airborne", published in 1976. The second reunion of the four former members was in 1990 for a concert in London (album "Alive 1990"). In the same year was released an album of previously unissued tracks recorded in 1973 ("Lovechild"). Finally, in 1995, an album of BBC sessions, called "Live at BBC".

: : : Silvio Chiarioni, ITALY : : :

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CURVED AIR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

CURVED AIR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 157 ratings
Airconditioning
1970
3.61 | 190 ratings
Second Album
1971
3.83 | 215 ratings
Phantasmagoria
1972
3.70 | 134 ratings
Air Cut
1973
2.43 | 59 ratings
Midnight Wire
1975
2.56 | 50 ratings
Airborne
1976
3.03 | 10 ratings
Reborn
2008
3.35 | 52 ratings
North Star
2014
3.18 | 11 ratings
Curved Space & Infinity
2016

CURVED AIR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 65 ratings
Curved Air Live
1975
3.40 | 21 ratings
On Air - Live at the BBC
1995
3.52 | 12 ratings
Alive 1990
2000
4.09 | 3 ratings
The Lost Broadcasts
2011
4.88 | 5 ratings
Live Atmosphere
2012
3.95 | 3 ratings
Tapestry Of Propositions - The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 1
2016

CURVED AIR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

2.97 | 14 ratings
Masters From The Vaults: Curved Air
2002

CURVED AIR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.58 | 12 ratings
The Best of Curved Air
1976
2.62 | 32 ratings
Lovechild
1990
4.00 | 4 ratings
Retrospective - Anthology 1970-2009
2010

CURVED AIR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Vivaldi
1971
3.00 | 3 ratings
It Happened Today
1971
3.50 | 2 ratings
Back Street Luv
1971
3.00 | 2 ratings
Sarah's Concern
1972

CURVED AIR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Airconditioning by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.28 | 157 ratings

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Airconditioning
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

3 stars A pioneer which couldn't keep up with its ideas: 7/10

CURVED AIR's debut indicates its belonging to the early progressive rock scene thanks to its crudeness. When I speak of crudeness, I do not refer to technical terms; instead, it's more of a conceptual one.

AIRCONDITIONING is undoubtfully progressive rock. It is mostly focused on hard rock with psychedelic leanings, confirming the "rock" part, but punctual moments of jazziness with the constant influence from classical music and its structures solidify the "progressive" amount. This is where the aforementioned "crudeness" comes in: these attributes aren't well mashed together. They're disparate, played separately in their own sections, with very brief moments of syncretism among these two lines of thought. CURVED AIR certainly wanted to bring something new on the table by bringing classical music in a hard-rockish environment and that is pretty ingenious - this is classical at its purest form, with Vivaldi-inspired violins and symphonic elements - but sadly they weren't able to adequately make them feel natural and complimetary to each other.

Does this mean, then, this album is incoherent or bad? Definitely not. It is quite a listen! Sonja's soprano vocals played along the reverbed guitar in songs like It Happened Today or Hide and Seek sounds great. In no moment, AIRCONDITIONING lack eclectism. The composition and styles are visibly different between songs, such as one being distinctively calm while the next is a powerful surf-rock-esque frenzy, etc. And besides, as I said, there are brief moments of well-done mixture among prog and rock; specifically, on It Happened Today's second half (where the violin plays under a jazz fusion ambiance), within Rob One's extreme serenity and sweetness brought by the violins and through Vivaldi with Cannons, an over-the-top distorted and loud violin performance of, well, Vivaldi. On... yeah. Violin.

In the end, AIRCONDITIONING might not be the to-go choice for anyone thirsty of progressiveness or technicality; instead, it is the optimal choice for those looking for lighter, less ambitious things. Assuming the nature of this site I can't go much further than saying yes, this is good; but no, not in any way essential.

 The Lost Broadcasts by CURVED AIR album cover Live, 2011
4.09 | 3 ratings

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The Lost Broadcasts
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars I did not have the focus on this band in the early 1970's. Not sure why, maybe somehow because they simply were well ahead of time, not easy to pigeonhole anyway. So what, in the aftermath, more than 45 years later, 'The Lost Broadcasts' shows them on rather eclectic paths, while blending classical, symphonic, fusion and folk elements to their own approach of playing sophisticated rock music. Furthermore, of course versatile front singer Sonja Kristina, who for example also was involved in the London version of the musical Hair, marks a special trademark. And she's a real eyecatcher on top of it, you bet!

The band witnessed a lot of line up changes during the years. On this occasion, concerning the year 1971, we have a shift on the bass guitar to notice in any case. However, when following the band's official timeline, drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa should be the correct listing when it comes to the second session, which took place some months later. But for me it looks like Jim Russell is involved here. Never mind, it doesn't matter in the end. The first song Vivaldi surprisingly sees Sonja sitting behind the keyboards. Darryl Way turns out to be the centre of attention due to some strong violin soloing. And again, differing to the studio version, Sonja is present with vocals too.

It Happened Today and Propositions are wellknown band songs played with a jazzy vibe. Especially the latter evolves to Francis Monkman's showpiece. Excellent! Both Back Street Luv versions then are somewhat peculiar, relatively short, because for what reason ever abandonded, just when Monkman is going to start some solo activity with his guitar. Piece Of Mind finally is their most complex and tricky performance. Taken from the original German Beat Club series and released on Gonzo Multimedia, this DVD/CD couple offers a song collection with acceptable audio and video quality. Quite a spellbinding documentation of the bands qualities.

 Second Album by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.61 | 190 ratings

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Second Album
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

4 stars Curved Air's unimaginatively titled Second Album, for all it's dour melancholy, is an album of full-blown classically influenced prog that features standout ensemble playing, along with much improved vocals from Sonja Kristina. Francis Monkman expands his role on the the VCS-3 synthesizer along with suplying eerie swirls from the mellotron and organ when he's not accompanying Daryl Way'a multi tracked electric violin with some classically tinged piano. Monkman also ups his game in electric guitar playing with both very clean leads and wonderfully distorted chords.

The first five songs are still, more or less, in the verse, chorus, bridge, verse and chorus variety, and are dominated by Way's somber violin or Monkman's funky electric piano, as evidenced on the UK hit "Back Street Love". Again, the emphasis on these songs is on the mood of the music and the somber lyrics that are delivered quite well by Kristina, in a style and sound now reminiscent of Renaissance's Annie Haslam, but clearly lacking Haslam's incredible power and multi octave range.

Where this album gets interesting is with the last three songs penned completely by Monkman that breakout of the standard pop song format and go head long into odd tempos and time signatures. Kristina does well to handle the lyrics and phrasing necessary to stretch over this material without the song's sounding too awkward. Way is in full compliment to Monkman's more jazzy free form vision, as are drummer Florian Pinkington-Miksa and temporary bassist Ian Erye. (It seems that Curved Air went through bass players like Spinal Tap went through drummers.)

This synergy would not last after the group's third album which would go into almost a free form format from the get-go. However, the balance found on Curved Air's Second Album of classical and hard rocking prog would be the best from the first incarnation of this band.

Cleaner and better mixed album production, when compared to the band's debut album Airconditioning, helps to place Second Album close to a four star rating.

 Phantasmagoria by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.83 | 215 ratings

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Phantasmagoria
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

3 stars Phantasmogoria is the third studio album by the celebrated prog ensemble Curved Air which features founding members Daryl Way on electric violin and Frances Monkman on keyboards, guitar and proto electronica. Along with founding member Sonja Kristina, the band had firmly established, for better or worse, their vision of early 70's progressive rock. The groups' sound, at this stage, was firmly marked out by playing songs with odd or jazzy time signatures such as 12/8, 9/8, 5/4, and even plaintive 6/8, with Kristina trying like hell to match her vocal delivery to these tempos before she runs out of breath. As truly progressive as this approach is, its an acquired taste. Edgy and dramatic jazz rhythms can easily come off as jerky and manic when vocals are placed on top of them.

That being said, the songs that work the best are the Way composed "Marie Antoinette" which is accompanied by an excellent synth played by Way and is one of those grandiose classically tinged prog songs that somehow survives it's lyrical pretentiousness. Followed immediately by the Kristina penned ballad "Melinda (More or Less)" which is a folk like song reminiscent, both lyrically and musically, of the sentimental ballads of the Strawbs' Dave Cousins. However, the band goes quickly south after this with the brass accompanied "Not Quite The Same" kicking off into it's manic rhythms with Kristina vocally trying to play catch up and clumsily trying to paste lyrics over the song's galloping rhythms and melodies. Even in the slightly slowed down sections, she still sounds awkward, and this sets the stage for the album's remaining songs.

What makes these gallivanting song and vocal concoctions suffer even more is Frances Monkman's arrangements of horns and annoying xylophone accompaniment on the album's last two "epic" prog songs "Over And Above" and "Once A Ghost, Always A Ghost", which renders these two songs in the clichéd realms of cheesiness. The few brief electronic/synth manipulated experimental pieces from Monkman seem out of place and offer no respite to his overproduced songs.

On the upside, Kristina's vocals are much more palpable on Phastamogoria with the rough edges firmly tucked away, but that does little to aid the album. As I said, Phantasmogoria is a record of truly progressive rock music, but it's not the kind that I like. Others may differ and if they find enjoyment in this album, nobody would be more pleased than I.

 Airconditioning by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.28 | 157 ratings

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Airconditioning
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by SteveG

2 stars Curved Air, to be honest, was a band that I always viewed as "Daryl Way and Friends", in their first incarnation, and dismissed them as such. After 40 plus years, I've tried to put my long held feelings on a shelf and give the group another try, starting with their first album titled Airconditioning. Why the first, when it's known for it's poor sound quality and hit and miss song success? Because it's basically the formula or form that Curved Air would follow on their more successful follow up albums and plainly demonstrated the band's strengths and weaknesses.

Unfortunately, not much of my previous view has changed. First off, classically trained electric violinist Daryl Way added much of the overt and convert classical vibe to the groups music, followed closely by keyboardist/guitarist Francis Monkman. Monkman also added futuristic psychedelia by means of a VCS3 synthesizer. Curved Air being one of the first bands to record with one. The rhythm section consisting of Florian Pilkington-Miksa on drums and Robert Martin on bass was more than adequate, if not distinctive. Which is all well and good.

Where Cured Air starts to fall apart in a big way is Sonja Kristina's lead vocals. Lacking the power and range of other female vocalists such as Renaissance's Annie Haslam or even San Francisco rocker Grace Slick, who she more closely resembles, Kristina simply lacked the skill and power to go head to head with either Way's stratospheric violin or Monkman's heavy lead guitar. The fact that an instrumental standout track such as Way's near famous neo-classically flavored "Vivaldi" only helped to conflate the issue on this album, and marginalized Kristina's vocals abilities even more.

Much of Curved Air early success was due to great promotion by both their management and record company, with the band given something in neighborhood of a $60, 000 advance prior to recording Airconditioning. Perhaps if the band had invested in a renowned record producer and the services of a top flight recording studio, Airconditioning would not have sounded like just so much hot air, forever dogged by poor mixing and mastering. Let's see if their second album, unimaginatively tilted Second Album, has the power to break the bleak foreboding of Airconditioning.

 Tapestry Of Propositions - The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 1 by CURVED AIR album cover Live, 2016
3.95 | 3 ratings

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Tapestry Of Propositions - The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 1
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

4 stars Curved Air has been going strong since their comeback in 2008. Sonja Kristina (vocals) and Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), got themselves new musicians (nowadays: Kirby Gregory on guitar, Chris Harris on bass, Robert Norton on keyboards and Paul Sax on violin) and they keep touring and releasing material.

Their last studio album was North Star (2014) and from that tour comes this new Live album: Tapestry of Propositions.

But a warning must be given about this record: it's not your normal Curved Air record. Tapestry Of Propositions is the first volume of the Curved Air Rarities Series and brings to the listener an hour long version of the song 'Propositions' (from the band's debut album Air Conditioning) with over a dozen of the improvisations which usually happen in their concerts. But here you have them edited together to flow naturally. And it kinda works!

Sonja Kristina vocals are present only on the opening and ending tracks so what you have here is an album for fans of the band and improvisational music, really. And as it is, it's a very good rarity for Curved Air's fans!

Interesting idea, let's see what the band will bring us for the next albums of the series!

 Curved Air Live by CURVED AIR album cover Live, 1975
3.66 | 65 ratings

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Curved Air Live
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Progfan97402

4 stars To me the essential Curved Air albums are the first three albums, and I know most would agree on that. In December 1974, the classic lineup reunited (Sonja Kristina, Francis Monkman, Darryl Way, Florian Pilkington-Miksa), minus the bass player (as the original lineup always had trouble with keeping bassists, their first three albums featured a different bassist). The new bass player being American named Philip Kohn (I used to think Stewart Copeland was the first American in the band, but turns out it was Kohn). Apparently some of the original members were needing to pay back taxes, and despite the lack of sales, it still helped pay back their taxes.

As this album featured 4/5 of the original lineup, it should really come as no surprise that no material on Air Cut was featured, as they would require more rehearsing to get them familiar with the material, so it's all focused on their first three albums, and what a great performance this was. I was a bit put off by Sonja's singing, as she tends to scream, which she never did on the studio albums. It's as if she was taking after Janis Joplin, Ann Wilson, or Jenny Haan (Babe Ruth). It's like I was imagining her trying to steer Curved Air into heavy metal. OK, so the songs here take on a harder-edge approach, so they have a more rocking quality. Even Francis Monkman playing guitar like there's no tomorrow. "It Happened Today", except for Sonja's vocal performance sticks close to the original template, although in a more hard-edge fashion. "Marie Antoinette" really seems strange when Sonja does her screams here, as this is one of their more soft and gentle songs. "Propositions" really gets interesting because Francis throws in an organ solo that is actually him doing Terry Riley! It unsurprisingly bears more than a passing resemblance to A Rainbow in Curved Air, which makes perfect sense, as that album/composition is where the band got their name from. You could almost imagine Francis Monkman recording a solo album of Terry Riley-type minimalist music. No Curved Air with Darryl Way would be complete without "Vivaldi", a lot of it is the same as the original, although Sonja throws in a short vocal passage, and Darryl throws in "Sailor's Hornpipe" on his violin. The big reason to own this album is the songs are arranged a bit differently from the originals, but maybe not as drastic as Gentle Giant's Playing the Fool: The Official Live Album, as you still easily recognize these songs, but they given them a harder-edge approach and some nice jams not fount on the originals (and that neat Terry Riley reference on "Propositions"). I do find Sonja's vocal approach a bit over the top here, but that's probably because she's attempting to give these songs a harder edge, but doesn't quite work right. Other than that, a great live album, which surprisingly has quite a few surprises despite all the material came from their first three albums.

 North Star by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.35 | 52 ratings

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North Star
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Pastmaster

4 stars Curved Air - North Star

"North Star" is the seventh (eighth if you count the re-recordings album "Reborn") studio album by progressive rock band Curved Air and their first studio album with new material since 1976. Curved Air is an often forgotten band of the 70's progressive rock scene, and like Renaissance they were one of the more classical-influenced bands. They make extensive use of violin and on their first album even had a song titled 'Vivaldi'.

On "North Star", we have seven new songs, three re-recorded songs, one re-recorded Sonja Kristina solo song, and three covers. Personally, I don't care for the covers and re-recordings but the new songs are excellent and some of the best songs the band has made.

Something I find amazing about a lot of the songs, is that the band rocks but at the sometime makes the music very calming and easy to listen to. Songs like 'Stay Human' and 'Time Games' both have some pretty rockin' guitar and bass work, but the peaceful keyboards and violin really add a different feel. Parts of the latter especially almost sound other-worldly, it's hard to explain, but the way all the instruments play together makes it rock and calm at the same time. 'Images and Signs' has a particularly great combining of violin and guitar, with the guitar supplying climbing riffs and sometimes getting menacing while the violin and keyboards bring a calming presence.

Now that I think about it, the band actually rocks quite a bit more than they used to. Now, this isn't hard rock or anything, but they really put the rock into 'progressive rock' with this album. While a lot of the new songs have great guitar work, the instrumental 'Spider' really has some awesome riffs. It combines more typical symphonic rock sections with really catchy riffs with a real jump to the guitar. There are also some space-y parts in the song that fit in really well.

The production is very organic and natural sounding, and it has a real warmth to it. I think this production works perfectly with the sound of the music, as I said the music feels very relaxed and if it wasn't for the filler of re- recordings and covers, the album would flow perfectly. A good idea of the feeling the music and sound gives, is a feeling of sitting by a fireplace calm and content but also tapping your foot to a catchy riff and rhythm.

Overall, it's rare for a classic 70's band's best work to be their most recent after being split-up for many years. However, I think this is the case with Curved Air, and this would get an easy five stars if it wasn't for the filler. I'll have to settle for 4.5, but I can't wait for anything else new that Curved Air has up their sleeves. I highly recommend this album for any fans of symphonic rock that want something both rocking and relaxing. 4.5 rounded down to 4.

 Phantasmagoria by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.83 | 215 ratings

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Phantasmagoria
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Deferred Defect

4 stars In technology, the Uncanny Valley is an expression used to describe something that approaches realism, be it a computer generated image, voice, or physical object.

When something trying to be "natural" is ever-so-slightly skewed away from what we perceive as "real", our brains have tremendous difficulty dealing with it, something that causes unease and adverse reactions in most people. We want to tell ourselves that the technically flawless CGI in modern films is as real as the actors, but people can spot the difference with almost no difficulty.

I was initially going to start this review with a comparison to the uncanny valley, but I'm still unsure if it's fair or not.

Going into Curved Air's Phantasmagoria, it ticks all the "right" boxes - We have a 1970s English progressive rock band, symphonic elements, psychedelic overtones, interesting song topics, and extremely tight, if not incredibly complicated, musicianship.

It's got some extremely catchy songs and themes that make it a fascinating listen, and yet the first time I listened to it, I'm fairly certain it ended without my taking much notice.

It's also got some very unconventional moments, mixing heavy synth experimentation with brass, funky time signatures, and lots and lots of violin, but even then something always made me feel that this was a heavily commercial album.

Maybe it's the production, the pop/ typographic style cover, or even Sonja Kristina's airy (but nice) vocals singing "La LaLaLa La La" on the title track, but there's elements here that make me feel like it's an elaborate ruse by a record label to cash in on this up-and-coming "progressive rock" fad.

Obviously that's not the case, but this is where we go back to the uncanny valley. Everything is there, but it just feels "off" somehow. Maybe it's just me.

Highlights for me are the incredibly good "Marie Antoinette", with Lorena McKennitt-esque lyrics and singing, leading into the calmer, and exceedingly pleasant "Melinda (More or Less)".

"Cheetah" is another highlight, with an extremely strong opening violin section and great bass. With the addition of a bit of guitar, this could fit very well into "Islands" era King Crimson.

"Who's Shoulder are You Looking Over" is an interesting improvisational piece that segues nicely into Over and Above, which might be my favourite track. There's some great vibraphone work and the song has excellent energy management. It ends in a very "Let it Be" era Beatles freakout, growling guitar solo ripping apart the chanting vocals in the background.

I'm usually paying attention by this point, unfortunately, because it leads right into my least favourite track, "Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost". Usually I love tropical influenced songs on prog albums (CAN's Bel Air especially), but this just doesn't do it for me. Believe me, it was not easy hitting play on the last track for this review.

Even considering the flaws, and my own inability to listen to it in my regular prog lineup (it usually ends up sandwiched along with the for-mentioned Beatles, Bowie, and ELO), it's got some really great moments. I think would be an album very suited as an entry to the genre; There's nothing too heavy, and it's genuinely fun.

3.5, but leaning towards a 4 for someone other than myself!

 Airconditioning by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.28 | 157 ratings

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Airconditioning
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by GKR

4 stars Curved Air' first album is a great voyage encountering classic music, something of psychdelia, one of the greatest female vocals in progressive rock history, nice melodies and introspective lyrics.

The first track is already an anthem in progressive rock history, a real good song combining every element of what was, is and I believed will be Curved Air. Well sang, well played. Really suberb. The other highlights are, from my point of view, "Blind Man" - beautiful and melodic song - and the "Vivaldi" section - showing the quality of Darryl Way (that all Tull fans remeber for his participation in "Heavy Horses").

Great work, a good adition to anyones music library.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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